Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review

Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review

The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is that rare animal in the automotive kingdom, a large luxury coupe capable of accommodating two rear passengers in comfort while simultaneously shoving them into their seatbacks with abundant power. Other two-doors tend to offer either opulence or power, but the CL manages both and features a sumptuous leather-adorned interior to boot. Spanning four generations, the CL has seen a few name changes over the years, but has steadfastly maintained its status as perhaps the quintessential large luxury coupe.

Most recently, though, Mercedes-Benz has decided to completely drop the CL badge, instead calling its big two-door luxury coupe the S-Class coupe. From a used car standpoint, though, there's nothing quite like the CL.

Used Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Models
The fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class luxury coupe was produced from 2007 through 2014. The CL was crammed full of the latest and greatest safety, comfort and entertainment technologies that the engineering wizards from Stuttgart could craft. This generation of the CL ventured farther from the S-Class sedan than past generations in terms of exterior styling, featuring curvier, more muscular lines than its subdued predecessor. This girth made the CL much larger and hundreds of pounds heavier than its closest competitors.

From 2011-'14 the CL came in four trim levels with corresponding engines: CL550 (429-horsepower twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8), CL600 (510-hp twin-turbo 5.5-liter V12), CL63 AMG (536 hp twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8) and CL65 AMG (621-hp twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12). The CL63's output could be further boosted to 563 hp and 664 pound-feet of torque via the AMG Performance package. The V8s had a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the V12's abundant torque required a more robust five-speed. The CL550 came standard with all-wheel drive, while the rest were rear-wheel drive.

Standard feature highlights included highly adjustable power front seats with heating, ventilation and memory functions, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a surround-sound audio system. There was also a full array of Mercedes' latest high-tech safety features such as Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control. The latter, which automatically accelerated and braked even in stop-and-go traffic, came standard on higher trims. The AMG models focused on performance with their more powerful engines, sport-tuned suspensions, high-performance brakes, unique exterior enhancements and leather sport seats.

In reviews, our editors were impressed by the CL's top-quality interior, competent handling and awesome performance regardless of trim level. Even the base CL550 is hard to fault, though its more powerful siblings are a league apart. In particular, the CL65's 738 lb-ft of torque seems sufficient to alter the Earth's rotation. One complaint is that the CL's long doors make it difficult to get in and out of the car in small parking spaces. But that will likely be a non-issue, as chances are you'll be parking this swanky Mercedes coupe as far away from other vehicles as possible.

CL models from 2007-'10 featured softer, less aggressive styling and different engines than those later CLs. But we can't say these are significant detractors when springing for a used CL. Initially there were just two models: CL550 and CL600. The CL550 had a 5.5-liter V8 that produced 382 hp and was rear-wheel-drive only -- all-wheel drive became standard for '09. The CL600 had the same V12 throughout this generation's run. The AMG models joined the lineup for 2008, though until 2011 the CL65's engine produced 604 hp, while the CL63 featured a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 good for 518 hp.

The third-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class was produced from 2000-'06. It was lighter, less expensive and much sleeker than its massive, brick-shaped predecessor. The CL500, powered by a 302-hp V8, was the only model offered initially, with the 362-hp, V12-powered CL600 and the 354-hp, V8-powered CL55 AMG arriving in 2001. As usual, Mercedes used the CL to showcase its latest technologies such as Active Body Control, Distronic adaptive cruise control and PreSafe (for 2003). Mercedes also used '03 to introduce the turbocharged CL600 and supercharged CL55 AMG, both pumping out 493 hp. The CL500 added a seven-speed automatic transmission in 2004, while an AMG Sport Package was added to the CL500 and CL600 as standard equipment for this generation's last year.

At the time, our editors were impressed with the powerful engine choices, dizzying array of high-tech features, classic styling and comfortable long-distance cruising ability. We weren't fond of its complex COMAND navigation and audio system, however, and found the rear seat to be cramped.

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class had a slight identity crisis, beginning its life as the 500SEC and 600SEC in 1993, changing into the S-Class Coupe in 1994 and finally settling on today's CL-Class moniker in 1998. Its sturdy, boxlike body changed very little during its run, giving it a strong resemblance to the S-Class/500SEL. It was offered with a 315-hp V8 and a new 389-hp V12 engine, neither of which changed during this generation's lifespan. As with today's generation, our editors couldn't find much to fault about this coupe's impressive combination of size, luxury and power. Its blocky styling is polarizing, however, and its huge price tag led us to suggest taking a look at cheaper alternatives.

The original flagship-sedan-based Mercedes-Benz luxury coupe was known as the SEC, which lived from 1981-'91. The 1986-'91 editions had a 238-hp, 5.6-liter V8, whereas the prior years were underpowered with a 3.8-liter, 155-hp V8. With its especially commodious rear seat, the 560SEC was actually considered a two-door sedan. This generation was also one of the first vehicles to offer airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and a self-leveling suspension.